Introduction: Big Screen Cattery
In January I suffered a tragedy when my rear-projection big screen TV of ten years died. So after the requisite period of mourning (about a week of futile reset attempts and fuse replacements) I accepted my loss, opened it up and stripped the guts out looking for useful parts. When this was done the TV was a hollow shell of its former self. I was preparing to drag it from the house and slice it into trash-can friendly sized pieces when my wife suggested it would a great cat house. Or Cattery that is part play ground and litter box camouflage. With her able assistance I transferred the shell to my workshop to begin the transformation from gutted corpse to cat condo. Here's how I did it...
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- 60" rear projection TV frame
- 60" rear projection TV front cover plates
- 60" rear projection TV rear cover
- Scrap wood
- Carpet remnants
- Hemp twine
- Wood screws (many)
- Machine screws with nuts and spacers (x2)
- Eye screws (x2)
- Dull dog toenail trimmers (x2)
- Jig saw
- Reciprocating saw
- Drill (with spade, regular, counter sinking, Philips, and Torx bits)
- Drill bit sizer
- Dremel (with cutting wheels and grinding stones)
- Tape measure
- Marker and pencil
- Utility knife (with replacement blades)
- Hot glue gun
- Ball-peen Hammer
- Bent nose pliers
- Pocket reference book
Step 2: Frame Modification - Part 1 - Removing Material
I wanted the cats to be able to enter the Cattery low on the front and to be able to move between what had been the three separate compartments within the frame. To accomplish this I enlarged the original speaker holes in the frame and removed some of the wood between the compartments. I used a spade bit to drill large holes at the corners of the speaker holes and a single hole in the side supports. These allowed me to properly position the reciprocating saw blade to remove the material. I used a ball-peen hammer and chisel to remove any stubborn bits of wood. I didn't worry about having smooth edges as these areas will later be covered with carpet.
I also used this hammer and chisel technique to remove unneeded mounting blocks from other frame locations. Use a cheap chisel in case you hit the staples used to secure the blocks. The protruding staples can be pulled with a pair of bent nose pliers. Save the larger mounting blocks as they come in handy for scrap wood.
Step 3: Frame Modification - Part 2 - Low Shelf Installation
The first structure I added to the frame was a low shelf in the main TV compartment. To accomplish this I removed the mounting blocks from the compartment by removing the wood screws and prizing them loose with the hammer and chisel technique. I then re-positioned the first block on the side wall and partially secured it with a single wood screw after drilling a a pilot hole. I put a level on the block, adjusted it to a level position, and then tightened the screw completely. Then I drove in a second wood screw to secure the remainder of the block. I installed a second block in a similar fashion perpendicular to the first on the front wall of the frame.
The points of the wood screws protruded from the wood slightly, so I ground them down with a Dremel equipped with a grinding stone.
With the supports in place I held a piece of scrap wood in place to determine the dimensions of the shelf. I judged this by eye and marked the wood with a pencil. I then clamped the wood to my work bench and cut it to size. With that done I drilled pilot holes in the shelf and supports using a counter sinking drill bit. This placed the heads of the screw below the wood surface so there wouldn't be any lumps under the carpet to poke the cats.
Step 4: Frame Modification - Part 3 - Frame Stengthening
The first picture shows the inside of the upper TV frame. The two points at the back are 3/4" wide and 2" long. They are going to be a key to supporting cat shelves, so I wanted to reinforce them. I measured the distance between the points as 22". I trimmed down one of the large mounting blocks I removed from the upper frame earlier. Then I drilled pilot holes in the points and installed the mounting block with wood screws. This added a great deal of rigidity to the structure.
Step 5: Frame Modification - Part 4 - Triangular Shelf Support Installation
I wanted to provide mid-level perches for the cats. I decided the shelves would have to be triangular with the rear point being supported by the the points I reinforced in the last step. However, I would have to add support for the base of the triangle. Due to the funky configuration of the frame it wasn't readily apparent to me how high the support would need to be. To figure this out I set a piece of scrap wood on the point and used a level to make sure it was even. I then used a tape measure to determine the distance between the bottom of the scrap wood and the surface the support would stand on. I couldn't get a picture of this as I didn't have enough hands and Mrs. RadBear wasn't home.
With this dimension in hand I cut a piece of scrap wood to the appropriate length. Next a notch would have to created that would go around the mounting block. I considered removing this block but I thought the effort to do so might damage the structural integrity of the frame. So I placed the support into place and traced the edges of the mounting block. Then I measured the depth of the block and used this information and a ruler to lay out the notch. With that accomplished I cut the notch using a jigsaw, set it into place and secured it with countersunk wood screws.
Step 6: Frame Modification - Part 5 - Triangular Shelf
Now I needed to cut the triangular shelves. I happened to have two pieces of scrap wood that had the same dimensions the base and height my triangular shelves would need. I couldn't remember the formula for determining the hypotenuse of a triangle as my math gland has been atrophied from years of disuse. So I looked it up, performed the calculation, and marked the line using a ruler. It was at this point that I realized that because my wood already had the proper dimensions for the base and height that I didn't need to calculate the hypotenuse at all. I merely had to draw a line between the two corners and the length didn't actually matter. So I could say I wasted 5 minutes, but I prefer to think of it as confirming that a mathematical principle that has been known for thousands of years was applicable within the confines of my basement. I then cut the triangles from the pieces of wood and secured them in place using countersunk wood screws.
Step 7: Frame Modification - Part 6 - High Shelf
With the low and mid-level shelves in place I now moved onto the high shelf. I wanted this shelf to only take up about half the width of the "screen" area of the Cattery so dangling toys could be hung in the other half. I used a piece of wood that was the length I wanted and secured it to the side of the cattery using an existing mounting block and an L bracket. I used a countersunk screw to secure the board to the mounting block through the upper surface. I then held the L bracket in place and marked the locations of the bracket holes for pilot holes. With that done I drilled the holes and used wood screws to mount the bracket.
With one side of the shelf secured I needed to support the other end of the shelf. I measured the distance from the bottom of the shelf to the floor of the cattery. With that measurement I cut a 2 x 4 to length and secured it by drilling long wood screws through the floor of the cattery into the 2 x 4. I then drilled counter sunk pilot holes into the shelf and drove wood screws the majority of the way into the other end of 2 x 4. At this point the torque of the drill and my failure to drill long enough pilot holes in the 2 x 4 caused the screws to begin deforming. So I used a ratchet fitted with a bit adapter to finish driving the screws, to make sure I didn't shear them off.
With that done The structure of the cattery is complete.
Step 8: Lower Access Holes
Now while my cats do appear to be capable of teleportation at times in order for them to use the expanded speaker holes in the lower frame I needed to make corresponding holes in the lower front cover of the TV. To do this I put the lower panel back in place and then traced rough outlines of the speaker holes on the inner rear surface of the panel. I then used a ruler and marker to create straight lines to follow.
With the straight lines drawn I used my Dremel equipped with a heavy-duty cut-off wheel to make the needed holes. I used bent nose pliers to snap off the plastic waste that accumulated along the cut lines. I then put the lower panel back in place to verify the holes were properly aligned.
Step 9: Brakes
My wife suggested I add brakes to the cattery to prevent it from moving if the kittens engaged in vigorous play. I pondered how to accomplish this without making some sort of overly complex system or having to remove casters and actually lift the cattery when I needed to move it. After many ideas I hit upon using some dull dog toenail trimmers. If positioned correctly the spring loaded handles would exert pressure on the floor when opened. The other advantage being the trimmers can be locked closed which will permit the cattery to move freely when needed.
A quick glance showed me that the screw in the toe nail trimmers wouldn't be long enough to use for mounting. So I disassembled the first pair of trimmers by grasping the nut with locking pliers and unscrewing the screw. The spring promptly sprang across the basement. When I took the second pair of trimmers apart I attempted to prevent this by clamping the end of the trimmers together and locking the handles closed with a a zip tie. The spring sprang less forcefully this time, but it still did fly a short distance. Of course it didn't occur to me until later, that if I disassembled them in the unlocked position this would have been less of an issue as there wouldn't be tension on the spring. All that is a really long way of saying take apart the trimmers and don't get hit by the spring.
I then checked the diameter of the original screw (6 mm) and then went to the hardware store and got two longer screws of the same diameter.
With the screws purchased I drilled mounting holes in the sides base of the TV. I slid the screw in place and realized the difference in thickness between the trimmer blades and handles would make mounting difficult. If I tightened the screw enough to hold the trimmers off the ground when closed this would throw them out of alignment and prevent them from opening. If I didn't tighten the connection enough the trimmers would drag on the ground. I went to the workshop and found two suitable spacers that would compensate for the offset.
With the spacers acquired I slid the mounting screw in place. I then slid the spacer over the screw, added one half of the trimmers, put the spring in the first half, added the second half of the trimmers and capped the whole thing off with the original trimmer nut. I then repeated this step on the other side of the TV.
I then tested out the brakes by opening the trimmers. And the plastic handles allowed the cattery to slide across the tile floor with no appreciable braking. So after swearing a bit, I added Sugru to the surface of the handles that contacted the floor and allowed it to cure overnight. When I tested it the next day the cattery could still move but was slowed considerably. Not perfect but sufficient to prevent cat chicanery from causing a cattery crash.
Step 10: Carpet Calculations
Next I had to figure out how much carpet I would need to cover the surfaces of the cattery. I did this by measuring the edges of the various surfaces I wanted to carpet and then calculated their surface areas in square inches. I added on a few inches to some of the surfaces to ensure I had enough carpet to cover edges. I added them together for a total surface area and converted that to square yards which worked out to be about 4.6 square yards. So I went to local carpet store and bought a 5 square yard remnant to ensure I had plenty of material to work with.
Step 11: Carpeting the Cattery
But back to my carpeting experience. I measured the overall size of the ledge and cut a piece of carpet that would fit this area. I measured some of the obstructions I needed to work around. I used these measurements to draw out the areas I would need to remove from the carpet piece in order to make it fit. With that accomplished I made the cuts and dry fit the carpet onto the ledge to ensure it fit. I then glued it in place using copious amounts of hot melt glue. I went around the edges and injected glue under portions of the carpet that weren't secure. I used variations of this process to continue the cattery carpeting
I won't go into exhaustive detail but some other techniques I used for carpeting included:
- For the upper shelf I had to cut a notch to allow the carpet to fit around the support pillar.
- For corners on shelves I cut out sections of carpet to allow the carpet to fold under without making unsightly bulges under the shelves.
- To cut holes for the cats to pass through and to allow the the front panel to mount to the TV, I cut a piece of carpet that covered the whole panel. I then glued it in place and made sure to glue the edges of the carpet from the backside. I then cut through from the back side. For the mounting holes I completely removed the covering carpet. For the cat access holes I split the carpet down the center and glued it to the sides of the hole. I then used carpet scraps to to cover the top and bottom of the holes.
- I used large spring clamps to prevent the weight of the carpet from pulling it off the cattery surfaces as I glued.
Step 12: Twine Wrapping
With the cattery carpeted I needed to cover the support pillar and bracing strut. I decided to cover these with twine as it would give the cats a different texture and a rough surface to sharpen their claws on. I originally intended to glue the twine only at the top of the support and wrap the post in twine. This was difficult and time consuming as I had to use a clamp to maintain the tension on the twine in order to prevent it from unwinding as I wrapped lower. I eventually gave up on this method when I got halfway down and there wasn't enough space to fit the twine spool between the support and the front of the cattery. At this point I glued the twine in place and cut the the twine. I then wrapped some twine around a dowel that could fit between the support and cattery wall. I used this to continue wrapping the support by gluing and clamping the ends when I began and ended a new section of the support. I used this method to wrap the brace at the back of the cattery as well. I would recommend wearing gloves as the twine irritated my skin.
Step 13: Hang the Toys and Add Panels
I screwed to eye screws into the top of the cattery in the portion unoccupied by the high shelf. I was fortunate that pilot holes were already there from components I removed. If you don't have these holes you'll need to drill them. Once the eye screws are in place get some cat toys with elastic string. I cut the strings to various lengths and tied them to the eye screws. This allows the felines to play at several different levels. After the toys are in place hang the back cover on it's support rods and then secure it using the original screws. With that done snap the upper and lower front panels in place on the Cattery. You're now ready to watch the felines romp and play. All five of ours use it to varying degrees.